Ellie’s Report on the Podcast War and Leisure Time

The IWM Wartime Leisure and Entertainment podcast gave a fresh perspective on the positive aspects that came out of the war. It told of the times in between the brutal fighting where the men were able to relax and unwind. Although the war that they were fighting in was horrendous, and the conditions that they were living in were seemingly unbearable, this podcast told countless stories of ways that the soldiers kept themselves entertained, and kept their morale high. I thoroughly enjoyed this 30 minute podcast. It gave me quite a lot of insight into the minds of the men at war. Having so many personal interviews with the men who were there to witness the type of entertainment that is discussed, really gave this podcast a personal feel, and like I was right there with the men as they were telling their stories. I believe that this podcast gave attention to every area of entertainment that went on, and did not leave anything out that I would notice having not been there. It gave accounts of things that they did on the front lines while the fighting seized to pass the time, as well as activities that went on while they were at their barracks.  

Clifford Lane was one of the veterans who was interviewed for this production, and he told stories of the men gambling. He said in his interview, “No one can imagine being stuck in a six foot trench in the middle of winter with nothing to do. So we gambled”. He, as well as many other veterans who were interviewed after him, told stories of a game that they played called “Crown and Anchor” while stuck in the trenches. Another account of what the men would do while passing the time in the trenches was explained by Lendon Paine. He told the interviewers, “The troops used to sing quite a lot. Especially in the trenches. Most of their songs were made up”.

Another soldier who fought in the war named Bollock Burke accounted playing soccer with other units while passing the time before reporting to the front. He also said in his interview while talking about the soldiers he fought beside, “they would go into a very well known village nearby… and the troops would get beer”. While all of the previous examples that were given seemed to be remembered fondly by the veterans, the activity that was most accounted was the display of concerts.

In these concerts, the troops were able to come on stage in front of everyone and perform, much like a talent show. There were around ten separate stories that different soldiers that attended these performances told. One of these soldiers was Walter Cooke. He told of one of the first concerts that was thrown, where him and a friend decided that the troops needed cheering up. He said, “these troops want cheering up ya know. Let’s throw them a concert party… They would come up and say something quite comical ya know. Or a fellow would come out of the audience and sing a song”. These concerts allowed for the comrades to get to know each other better while providing them with entertainment.

Glory of Women

So, this was just another example of the men of war blaming the women at home, but I wanted to unpack it a little further. This poem by Siegfried Sassoon was so interesting to me due to all the binaries that Sassoon put in place to show the contrast between what women can and cannot support. He talks about how women support them when they are heroes, and at home- but only while on leave. They cannot support them if they retire because they are broken by the war. He talks about the contrast between what men are expected to do for the women, and what the women are doing for the men by writing, “That chivalry redeems the wars disgrace. / You make us shells” (Sassoon 4-5). These lines rang particularly interesting to me because it shows that women expected the men to take care of them and be chivalrous, while in return the women are turning them into shells. It talks about how the women glorify the fact that they have sons and husbands fighting, but then mourn them when they die. We have seen examples of this so many times now, but I really like the way that Sassoon painted the women at home as if they were daydreaming, in contrast to the horrific realizations that the men at war were facing .